When a plan comes together

I do like it when a plan comes together.

Friday night was the kayak club weekly river session, this week held at Knightwick.  Paddlers got together a little earlier than usual to gather kit and sort cars, then all headed over to the weir.  There was a great turn out so it was 'boat soup' on the river.  Although this meant there was a bit of a wait between turns playing on the wave (or in my case just going on to the second wave and turning off it again) it was a great atmosphere.  Everyone chipping in with some coaching and helpful hints and advice.  A couple of swimmers through the evening but no drama, and I even saved my first bit of kit....

Sat in an eddy having a chat we saw a boat paddle and swimmer drifting past.... The boat got washed towards the eddy and the swimmer was making his way to the bank, I saw the paddle floating away and no one following it yet, so I went for it. I caught up with the paddle, picked it up, and while trying to sort it out drifted back in to some over hanging trees. Having been warned about getting caught up in trees I got myself away from them.  I started to realise I was a fair way down stream.  I tried to put the paddles together as I've seen others do but as mine were straight and the rescued ones were cranked that didn't work.  And I dropped them again. Hmmm...  Worked out I could put them diagonally, tucking them under the strap on my deck, and still paddle if a little awkwardly.  Made it back to the eddy where swimmer and boat were reunited and felt quite good about being part of the rescue.  πŸ˜Š

I didn't really battle a my demons.  With all the boats around I just didn't feel like I had the time or space to push my limits, however, I felt really confident with ferry gliding and turning lower down.  It's really starting to feel smooth and that I'm getting a good feel for the water and what I need to do with my paddle (even if I can't always execute the maneuver).

Saturday morning and I'm already a tad stiff, but once I get moving I'm feeling better and I managed to get Buddy out on a ride with friends at the yard. It was a new route for us including a short distance on the main road. Buddy was well behaved of course and even though we got rained on we all enjoyed the ride.

I got back home then as Keith was coming over to fix the alternator back on the car.  Although it is my car and I wanted to be around to help I was a little redundant as between Dad and Keith all was well in hand. So I made drinks and a little lunch.  Within a couple of hours all was sorted and I was very relieved to hear my car growl in to life once more! πŸ˜‚

We then went off to meet a couple of friends who are also coming out to the Alps and went climbing at the leisure centre for a couple of hours.  We all decided to meet up again later in the evening and go for a bite to eat.  So a quick run round to feed and sort cats, dogs and horses and get changed before joining up at Harleys in Kinver.  A good choice (thanks Gregg) really great food.

Then Sunday was the full day clinic.  I arrived at the yard a little early, incase I needed to set anything up and was greeted by a few of the riders, still in pajamas and brushing teeth πŸ˜‚ They had arranged a camp over for the weekend (hence booking me for a day of lessons) and the atmosphere was great.

I didn't end up using the exercise I had planned. It just didn't work out that way, but the planning paid off, knowing a bit about the horses and riders before I arrived, meant we could get on with the sessions and start making improvements.

Every rider was completely different, a couple nervous for different reasons, a couple quite confident, some quiet some talkative and, some younger inexperienced horses,  some older quirky ones. Each rider made improvements in their session, whether that be in confidence or technique and it was very rewarding for me to see all the smiles.

It was a glorious sunny day, which made it all the more enjoyable, however I think I had a little heat stroke and now have a little pink triangle where the sun caught the opening of my shirt.  I was totally worn out but I realised this is the first time I've felt this exhausted through work, and been happy about it.

A few of the riders asked about how to book future lessons, which I discussed with them and left my business cards with them too.

Another bonus is that a friend of one of the riders came down to take photos for the day, so I have asked if the riders would send them on to me of they are happy for me to use them.

Everything is feeling very positive right now and I'm feeling really motivated to keep this up and encourage bookings of a similar nature. 


So, the car died.

That meant Sunday was mostly spent getting my car back on the drive, sorting out the spare car and getting the alternator out of mine.  It's a really good job that I have a great Dad with a spare car, and a fab boyfriend to get the alternator fixed.  Now it's had a refurb we should be able to put it back on tomorrow, and I'll be back to my normal car (although a little lighter in the pocket 😑).

Other than the car, it's been another straightforward week, with very little really going on that's much to discuss.  It's mostly been a week of planning,  preparation and CPD.

Over the bank holiday weekend the Canoe club is having a stand at the Bewdley Bike Jam, to raise awareness of the club in the area and potentially gather some new members.  This meant the committee had to meet to discuss what we were going to do with this stand, how it would be manned and so on.  A night of cheese and biscuits was planned for, and it was a good opportunity for the committe members to get together and discuss a couple of other club items, including an upcoming trip to Saunton.  The club is organising for it's members (plus family) to go to Saunton for a weekend camping, kayaking and genral merry making.  It promises to be a nice weekend and I can't wait to go, adding to the practice I need for the Alps, and getting to know some more of the club memebers a little better.

This weekend is set to be a busy one for me.  I have a full day of teaching on Sunday, all at one yard like a clinic.  They have a selection of riders at different abilities on different kinds of horses.  I've been watching the video clips they've sent through, so that I can make a plan that will benefit them all in their individual sessions.  It's the first time I've taught a full day of back to back lessons in this way (I usually have to drive between lessons) so I've got a cue card for each rider, with a few points about them, and a couple of observations I've made from the video.  I have an exercise plan ready which is adaptable to all levels of rider on the day, so I won't be wasting any time between sessions moving poles and jump wings around.  I have my fleece and hat with my logo on ready, and I'll have some business cards in my pocket too.  I've got rider registration forms for them all too, as new students have to fill these out for insurance pruposes.... I think I'm all set for the day.

I'm very excited about Sunday for two reasons.  Firstly it's going to be great to meet a bunch of new horses and riders and make a diffeence to them, their partnerships and their progress together.  But it also holds the potential to give my business a bit of boost,  as it's 7 new riders that will hopefully go away and tell their friends.  Now I just have to pray that the ground isn't too slippery after all this rain!

In between the planning I've been getting up to date with a bit of CPD.  I try to keep a list or pile of books and magazines to read, and whenever I've got a little time to spare I'll sit and read something.  Whether it's enough time to go through a whole magazine over a coffee at the yard or a chapter or two of the latest book I'm going through, I'm trying to make the most of any 'down time'.  Now that I've got a bigger client base it's getting more important to plan my time and make the most of the day. 

Make it a good one

In many ways this week has been pretty average. No massive break throughs, no fear fighting escapdes, no big splash or giant leap.  The 'normal' day to day.

 πŸŽΆOn the road again.... 
This average week has bought about a change in Buddy's behaviour after I amended his diet (My barefoot trimmer reminded me about the importance of salt in the horses diet -you can read the article she sent me - here).  So we've been out on a few hacks (Including this one on Strava) and played in the school with some jumps and gymkhana exercises. (Sorry about the picture quality, there was a smudge on the screen)

 On the way home ☺

Reach and relax 

Love that tail flick! πŸ’“

 skinny filler 

Gymkana flags for the first time
I've also had a fairly full week workwise, all students making progress with one thing or another. Fiona finding the pace within the pace, and starting to feel for the 'flow of energy' between her and Jazz.  Collette riding Oz, getting some nice work from him, even though he is very different from her normal ride, Cheeko. And today Hannah took Ciscero out on his first hack under saddle, with me leading Prince, and it was a positive experience for them both. 

I've been fairly organised with my diary and have well over 6 weeks planned in advance... right up to my holiday infact.  The Alps trip I've been working towards with my Kayaking.  I haven't looked forward to a 'normal' holiday in a very long time, and I'm really excited about this one.  (Normal being not specifically involving horses in anyway, work or pleasure).

I'm house sitting so getting a little extra exercise by walking the dogs, and taking care of them, also perhaps more early nights than I get when I'm not sitting, and getting a little bit of me time in the house.
Oh yeah, working and at the pub πŸ‘

Friday night river session with the club, I had a swim from trying to do better with high brace practice.  I guess at least I was pushing my boudaries a little.  The river severn going up your nose isn't that pleasant, however I got to try a deep water rescue, then did a T rescue, and again was part of anothers triumph, with Hannah rolling in a play boat on the river.

 An afternoon with Keith and the kids at the stables.  Kaitlin and Lewis both had a ride and I think they enjoyed it, I did a little work steering without reins, which I don't practice often enough.  Followed by pub dinner, eating in the out, with the sun having come out to play.

I've still got a sunday left....

We've had rainy days, my car has thrown up a light on the dash again, I've got a vet bill on the way in a few weeks and I've been a little poorly (no details required here) but, and that's a big BUT; every sinlge day, I've had so much to smile about, none of these things or any other little annoyances, have made any difference.  It may not be the easy road I'm on, but it sure feels right.

If you count your earnings as your level of success, this week has not been a successful week.  But if you count experiences, you can look for and find those experiences in your every day life, even in, what is on paper, a very mundane week; you, like me, are blessed.

You are living the life you create.  Make it a good one!

Turning the corner from terror

Friday night I made it down to my first river session with the club, and I only had the smallest bit of nerves about getting on the water.  It was a busy session with some new faces joining us for the evening too, so there were high spirits all round.  After a bit of a struggle with my deck (it's a tight fit and even more so when the neoprene is dry) I shuffled myself around to drop in to the water.  Not able to get quite straight, there was a bit of a wobble as I went in, but I found that this didn't bother me on the flat water anymore.  Clearly facing my fears on the T has worked as expected, and I'm starting to overcome the fear.

After a bit of chatting and warming up paddling around, the group headed up stream.  The river is low now and the features are small.  I practised some breaking in and out and some ferry gliding at the first little ripple, and was feeling quite confident.  Keith and I tried to make our way up further to the bridge on the water, but after a bit of struggling (some good exercise) we decided we'd have to get out the boats and portage past.

Up by the bridge with some deeper water, Keith got me practising my breaking in and out some more, and did some further explanation of the angles and so on, and how it would differ on moving water.  It's hard to imagine being on bigger, faster water and what you would need to do, when the water you are on is dead flat!  We then looked at some different strokes, skulling for support, draw strokes and so on, and had a bit of a practise with these, again trying to relate it to the bigger water I'm aiming for.  A little communication hiccup and I got a bit frustrated, I'm clearly still a tad nervous about the idea of faster water, as I'm wanting to get everything feeling perfect on this friendly flat water.  I know that if I can't get it right here, I'm going to get in to trouble on the bigger stuff.  I think I'm forgiven though.

It's amazing how quickly an hour or more can go by just practising these few things, as it was time to head back down to the club.  We'd been having a good chat with Neil during the session, who had been a member of the club many years ago, and has recently decided to come back to paddling after a long break.  He clearly hasn't forgotten much, even though he thought he felt a bit rusty, as he and Keith were doing some tricks on the way down stream.  Wanting to make the most of every minute I was practising the strokes from the session on the way down, feeling the difference in them when moving rather, than trying them sitting still.  I had a couple of moments where I nearly tripped over my paddle, but again this was no more than a quick 'woops', and back to trying again.

For the first time, I felt like I'd enjoyed being on the water.  I feel more comfortable in the boat, I feel more stable and more able to cope with the movement of the boat, and although it's still unusual and requires concentration, it all feels a lot less alien.

7 weeks to go until the alps and finally flat water feels OK.  Perhaps there is some hope then, that I won't be entirely overwhelmed on the big mountain rivers.

Back at the club I didn't feel like I was quite done, so I got Keith to show me how to practise a roll on grass.  He had metioned this was something I could try, but I couldn't get my head around how it worked.  It was easier than I thought, although obviously different in many ways to actually rolling up in the water.  It helped me put a few things together, as I could actually talk the process through while 'upside down', rather than having to remember while I'm holding my breath!

I left feeling almost excited about going back to Knightwick in the morning.

Saturday morning then was my first time going paddling 'independantly'.  Keith was going out on a 'big boys paddle' at the T, so he could just enjoy without babysitting, and I was joining a few club members at Knightwick.  After getting the kit sorted and seeing Keith off, I had breakfast and slowly made my way up to the weir.  I stopped on the way to check on the boat, and I'm glad I did.  The boat had moved and the straps had come a little lose!  I arrived at knightwick, the adjustments I made at the pit stop had worked, and I still had a boat on board.

I was the first to arrive so started getting kitted up, and by the time I was half done, Gregg and Dean had arrived too.  Once the three of us were ready, we headed down to the weir.  We lazily went about getting on the water, taking the opportunity to stretch and loosen up a little, and once on we stayed chatting on the flat water.  Jamie was due to be coming down, and as a coach and the more experienced paddler of the group, we were waiting for him.

I've already noticed by this point, that I've achieved a few things that I would NOT have done just a few weeks ago.  I've taken my own kit, learnt about where to put the straps so my boat doesn't come lose, got kitted up and remembered everything I need and what order it goes on, got on the water with peers (confident paddlers but not quite the same safety net as a coach) and been happy to sit in my boat chatting with them, not panicking about the session ahead.

Jamie and Tevor arrived soon after and once they were on, we all headed down the weir.  For the first time I went through the wave not following another paddler.  Another little achievement.  I was a little nevous about it and took a moment in the eddy at the bottom to settle my heart rate, but it felt GOOD!

It only took a few minutes to feel confident again, and I had a go at backwards ferry gliding.  I had done it a few weeks before on the very forgiving Little Bob, and with this new found confidence, I was ready to try it by Big Bob.  I was down stream from the main wave, where the water is less bouncy, but the flow is still relatively strong.  Feeling a little over confident I was talking to Dean as I went, I lost my focus and so lost my edge.  Damn, I was over.  I tried to remember the roll process from the night before but having been taken by surprise I got a bit muddled, I pulled my deck and I was swimming.  Gregg and Dean got me and my boat to the side and although a little shaken, as I'd felt so disorientated under the water, I was mostly frustrated, and rather cold.

Back in my boat, I did a quick forward ferry glide to settle the nerves that had risen up, and then with a little input from Jamie I had another go.  Definitely progress for me to go straight back to trying the same thing that just got me out!  I managed a few of these successfully and then started making my way closer to the main wave.  I tried out a few variations of things I'd learnt in the past few sessions, trying to read the water to see the best place to cross the eddy line, last power stroke in the flow, using the water flow, angle and edge to make the crosses easier, and testing out the hanging draw as I went across.

Jamie had a mission to work on his roll in cold water today, so while I was doing my own practise, I was also watching his progress with the help of the group.  He was at first getting used to T rescues in the eddy.  This is where another paddler puts their boat to the side of your boat when you have capsized, so you can use that to push yourself up on.  Then he tried a few rolls, with a T rescue available where he was unsuccessful.  He had a few unsuccessful attempts at first, but then cracked it.  He's been paddling for a couple of years, is a level one coach and a very strong paddler, but when in cold water his instinct is to bail when he goes over.  That has definitely started to change after this practise, as later on, he capsized while playing in the wave a couple of times and rolled instead of bailing.  It was great to be a part of encouraging someone else to overcome something, and make a positive step forwards with their skills. So well done Jamie!

I managed to feel confident enough to get up on the second/third wave and did some gliding and turns here (with some coaching from Jamie again) but I wasn't feeling confident enough to try for that first green wave, and by now I was freezing, my hands were hurting and I could barley feel anything else.  On one of these turns I noticed, as I was sat on the top of the wave, and making the turn out of it with a low brace, my hand was quite deep in the water.  I could feel the support I was getting from the paddle, and the large amount of edge on the boat.  This is another achievement, as rather than this situation terrifying me, I was clear headed enough to notice what was going on, and although it was strange, it didn't make me panic.

I decided to call it a day then. I wasn't going to feel confident doing any more as I was too cold to concentrate properly and I felt that my achievements for the morning, although perhaps small ones, were enough to be happy with.  I headed up to the car a little weak on my legs and tried to sort out my boat.  I could barely move my hands and it was then I realised just how cold I was.  Definitely a good call not to do any more paddling.  My feet and legs were a nice shade of purple, and it made getting the wet kit off quite difficult!!

Over the weekend though, Keith had seen a semi-dry 2 piece suit for sale second hand, which I decided to go for, so hopefully it will have arrived for the next time I paddle and I can be a bit warmer!!  The borrowed kit I have been using has been doing OK to get me started, but it's not keeping me that warm, especially when I swim.  That marks my first kit purchase, so another step towards being a proper paddler!!

Every day can be a good day

After the big adrenaline rush on Saturday, taking on the FEAR and smashing it, I've had a nice few days to reflect and relax.  I had a really good schooling session with Buddy on Sunday, feeling so calm after the excitement of the river, I added a little jumping and it all went very smoothly, so I feel like we are turning a corner, and perhaps Buddy is starting to settle back to his old self.  I was keen to get back in the saddle on Monday too, but Buddy was stiff and possibly just a tad lame (it looked like he might have caught his hocks getting up in the stable), so unfortunately it wasn't meant to be, he would have to have a couple of days off.  I did however, manage to help Keith with some flat pack style furniture he was sorting out for his sister, and I'm glad to say the relationship has withstood the test.  I've heard of flat pack furniture causing gargantuan arguments in couples, and just like the test of surviving through a family gathering, going on the first holiday together, and other make or break scenarios, it feels like a milestone.  We can work together to take down and re-install one of the most irritating structures known to man, without it causing mayhem or fireworks between us.

Tuesday was once again back to normal with a morning lesson, this went really well, with the horse and rider getting some nice relaxed canter work, which has previously been almost impossible.  Every time a student makes a break through like this, I get a little bit of a buzz, knowing I've been a part of helping them improve their partnership, and their performance.  It's this buzz that reminds me this is what I should be doing in life, it's the right path for me to be on.

As it's the beginning of the month, I had to head in doors for some paperwork in the afternoon, which seems such a shame when the weather is good.  The unfortunate part of being self employed, is that you still have to keep records, create invoices, do your accounts, and eventually I'll get round to sorting the tax return.  It's a necessary evil, but the view from my office is now much more pleasant than the brick walls and trading estates where I used to work, and the boss is pretty relaxed too.  Every cloud and all that! πŸ˜‚ Having got the invoices done (these need to be done in the first few days of the month, so people know what to pay me!), I decided to finish off the rest of the accounts today.

Last night I started myself up an Instagram account to add to my web presence, something I'd been avoiding for a while because it's another thing to think about updating.  It seems pretty straight forward though, so hopefully it will turn in to a useful tool.  I was also keeping an eye on my blog post views, as I've had some really positive comments about the latest one from friends, and I noted during the evening it had got over 150 views.  This got me just a little excited, and this evening it's showing just over 200 views!  It's giving me a nice feeling of success, that something I've written has attracted so much attention, and is spurring me on to continue to write.  Of course, not everyday has the same amount of excitment to write about, and I have set this blog up to talk, not just about my daring escapades, but also the ups and downs of my life since becoming self employed.

I had a really big break through in my own riding this afternoon too.  As Buddy was sound again, I took him in to the school, made sure he was well warmed up, and worked a little on our own canter.  I managed to teach him to do walk to canter transitions!  This is something I've ridden through on horses already trained to do them, but the first time I've taught a horse to do it.  So, feeling proud of him and myself, it had already been a good day.

This evening I had to teach over in Leigh Stinton, a more recent addition to my client base, again getting a little buzz from finding a solution to their current issue.  With a little practice this should have them gaining a few extra marks in their upcoming combined training competition, and I'll be looking forward to hearing about how they get on.  Having a little chat with the client afterwards, she told me more about the riding club she is a part of, and it's given me the idea it would be worth looking in to, to help get Buddy competing, in a supportive team environment.  I've never been part of a club with my riding, we had the money to keep the horse and that was it.  My competeing ventures have been few and far between, and the more I ride and learn about horses, the less I am bothered about the ribbons.  (I'm still human, and a competetive one at that, so when I do go I still get the nerves of a show day, and the buzz from a win if I get one).

As I wasn't too far away from Knightwick, I decided to drop by to watch the paddlers from our club (Wyre Forest Canoe Club) having some fun on the weir.  After the Tryweryn on Saturday, and the levels at Knightwick slowly dropping, the weir looked dramatically more friendly, and I found myself wishing I'd put the paddling kit in the car so I could join them.  This thought was a little shock in itself, and I realise that some personal growth is being made.  It was a nice opportunity to take a look at the weir from the banks though, and look for the features and movement of the water that I learnt about on the T.  I said a quick hello to the paddlers and sat with my camera on the banks.  I hope I've got some worthwhile footage for them.  I certainly enjoyed watching, as the sun was going down on another good day.

So although these few days haven't been stacked with adrenaline, big fear fighting, demon battling excitment, that provides a good story wheter you are in to the sport or not, each day has been a success in it's own right.  I've been taking in all the little pleasures as I've gone along, and even the 'chore' of paperwork had it's silver lining.  I've been trying not to think to hard or overanalyse my trip on Saturday, just allowing the experience to sink in through my subconcious, and I'm certain it's sunk in as a positive one, and will now give me more confidence on the water the next time I go out.

Looking back on my time working in an office, I recall living basically from weekend to weekend, always wanting more 'things', that nice jacket, a new car, a new phone, some bling for the horse, etc etc.  I'd rejoice in the Friday feeling, enjoying Saturday or sleeping through it, and spending most of Sunday, only half enjoying anything I was doing because, Monday was on the way.  Always planning the next holiday, the next weekend away or day out, living in the future, and never really appreciating the current moment, because I just didn't want to be there.  Although at the time I had a bit of a melt down, and it was stressful time for a while, I'm so glad I lost that job, and took the opportunity life had handed to me, to change the path I was on.

Sometimes life hands you opportunities that are disguised as failures or setbacks.  It's only if you are ready to take them that the opportunity in them is clear.

Last river and a surprise find

Wednesday soon comes around, and this is likely to be my last opportunity to paddle.   The plan today is to travel to the Isar.   For thi...